A Case Study for Sustainability

Berea College located in Berea Kentucky, founded in 1855, employs 485 people. Berea is one of seven work colleges in the national Work Colleges Consortium.

The college focuses on providing a strong academic program as well as a holistic approach to social and environmental issues. Berea is unique in that it charges no tuition and admits only academically promising students primarily from the Appalachia area who have limited resources. Every student works 10-15 hours per week in more than 100 college offices, departments and programs off campus while carrying a full academic schedule. The eighth and current President, Dr. Larry Shinn, strongly believes “sustainability is one of the very best tools low-income students can use to succeed, whether they return to a small Appalachian town, or like some of our graduates, go on to Wall Street. Our philosophical framework is built around educating ourselves and our students on sustainable living.”

Below are some of their initiatives:

  • Renovated historical buildings and residence halls to include sustainable features they have been retro-fitted often using recycled materials.
  • 1,200 of their 8,200 acres of land and forest are used to grow local foods and provide instruction in the agriculture and natural resource curriculum.
  • Developed the first ecological village in Kentucky designed to consume less than 75% of energy and water compared to conventional housing.
  • Built a central plant to LEED standards reducing the ecological footprint of the college by reducing energy consumption, which is a major factor in their goal of 45% less energy usage by 2015.

Due to these initiatives and the college’s long-term commitment to sustainability, Berea College used 52% less BTU’s of natural gas in 2009 over its 1999 usages and provides 15% of its cafeteria food from its own farm and local producers.

What are the best and next steps for your organization on the journey of sustainability?

Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC, through their Institute for Sustainability, has specialized in helping businesses define and implement a common sense approach to sustainability while achieving high levels of excellence and results. Learn how at www.theinstituteforsustainability.com or contact RAC directly at 800.799.6227.

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